Wed | Aug 15, 2018


Published:Tuesday | January 27, 2015 | 11:00 PM
Contributed Photo Senior Medical Officer of Health for Kingston and St Andrew, Dr Heather Reid Jones (centre), speaks about the facilities at the newly built Golden Spring Health Centre during a tour of the facility on Friday. She is flanked by, from left, chairman for the South East Regional Health Authority, Dr Andrei Cooke; Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson, Member of Parliament Paul Buchanan; and General Manager at the Jamaica Social Investment Fund, Rhonda Lumsden-Lue.

New Primary Health Care Renewal Policy approved by Cabinet

Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson has announced that a new primary health care renewal policy has been approved by Cabinet and will pave the way for significant changes in the current system. Dr Ferguson was speaking on Friday at the official opening of the facility held on the grounds of the health centre in Golden Spring, St Andrew.

"The Government through Cabinet, recently approved a primary health care renewal policy which will see us putting in place a new structure. We are moving to make primary health care attractive to our people because we want to ensure that they go to the primary health care facilities for certain illnesses rather than the hospitals," Ferguson said.

He pointed out that 117 health centres have been refurbished so far under the primary health care infrastructure renewal programme. He said another nine are in progress for this financial year.

He said the construction of the new Golden Spring Health Centre is a part of the broader plan to make significant improvement to the Primary Health Care structure.

"Since 2012, we have been on a mission to improve access to services to Jamaicans. This is why we have put in place the four primary care Centres of Excellence and have spent more than $600 million on improving primary health care," the Health Minister explained.

The Golden Spring Health Centre is now a type two facility that offers services including child health and immunisation, family planning, curative services, health promotion and illness prevention, surveillance and disease control.

The health centre was constructed at a cost of $38,140,755.58 through funding from the Jamaica Social Investment Fund and contribution from the community through the Stock Farm Road Citizens Association.

The CHASE Fund has provided funding for the purchase of the equipment for the facility.

Ebola vaccine sent to West Africa for testing

The first shipment of an experimental Ebola vaccine is being sent to Liberia for field testing, but experts say it may be difficult to determine how effective it is because the number of Ebola cases in West Africa is falling.

An airplane carrying about 300 initial doses of the vaccine made by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the United States (US) National Institutes of Health (NIH) arrived in Liberia on Friday, and a clinical trial of the vaccine could begin within a few weeks, it was reported.

Researchers plan to give the vaccine to 10,000 volunteers and another 10,000 will receive a placebo. Another 10,000 people will get a different experimental vaccine.

The GSK-NIH vaccine was previously tested on 200 healthy people in the US, UK, Mali and Switzerland, and was found to be safe. However, tests in countries affected by Ebola are the only way to determine if the vaccine provides sufficient protection against the deadly virus, the report said.

But it may be difficult to assess the true effectiveness of the vaccine with the number of Ebola cases declining, according to an expert.

"Because case numbers are starting to come down it will become harder and harder to show if the vaccine is having any impact," noted Professor Jonathan Ball, a virus expert at Nottingham University in the UK.

"Ultimately, we may be in position in a few months time where we don't know whether this vaccine is effective in humans," he added. "But it is important to get answers if we can - if not for this outbreak, for future outbreaks. We need to be prepared."

Clinical trials of other experimental Ebola vaccines are planned in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the coming months, while the trial of an experimental drug called Zmapp might begin in the next few weeks.

Falling sperm counts caused by contraceptives in drinking water,

chemicals in plastics

Falling sperm counts could be caused by traces of the contraceptive pill in drinking water, a new study has claimed.

United States scientists say the sex hormone oestradiol - the birth control hormone that passes untreated through sewage plants - has an even larger effect on sperm than Bisphenol A or BPA, as it is widely known.

BPA is found in some plastics used to make food containers, bottles and coatings in tin cans, and is also commonly used in thermal paper in cash register receipts.

But researchers claim BPA can disrupt hormones, raising the risk of a wide number of health problems such as diabetes, obesity and cancer.

The chemical has already been banned in baby bottles in Europe because of safety fears.

But the transparent resin is still used to line most plastic and tin food packaging - despite the calls for an all-out ban by campaigners.

The UK Food Standards Agency says strict regulations mean that the health risk from food packaging is minimal.

The US Food and Drug Administration banned BPA from baby bottles in 2012, but said there was not enough evidence for a wider ban and has found the chemical safe at low levels.

However, in the new study, Washington State University geneticists found a direct link between BPA and disrupted sperm production.

Writing in the journal PLOS Genetics, they say the chemical disrupts the delicate DNA interactions needed to create sperm.

In addition to the BPA effects, principle investigator Dr Pat Hunt saw an even larger effect on sperm by oestradiol, the birth control hormone that passes untreated through sewage plants.

She believes she and her team may have unearthed the reason why numerous studies have revealed sperm counts are falling.

Ebola has killed a third of the world's chimpanzee and gorilla

populations, say conservationists

Ebola has wiped out a third of the world's chimpanzee and gorilla populations and could threaten the survival of these already endangered great apes, conservationists have warned.

The current Ebola epidemic in West Africa is the worst known among humans, killing 8,641 people, according to the latest World Health Organization figures.

But outbreaks have taken place sporadically in Central Africa since the first known case in 1976 and the virus is considered a major threat to gorillas and chimpanzees.

ape epidemics go unnoticed

In an article for the Jane Goodall Institute, Ria Ghai, an ecologist, wrote that a third of the world's chimpanzees and gorillas have died from Ebola since the 1990s. "Unlike human epidemics, wild ape epidemics tend to go unnoticed for months or even years," she wrote.

Some of the previous Ebola outbreaks among humans are believed to have stemmed from infected gorillas and chimpanzees, found dead in the forest and butchered for food.

Conservationists have called for greater resources to develop a vaccine to help save the animals from extinction. But there are concerns that it could be seen as a competing with human research.

According to the conservation group the World Wildlife Fund, the Ebola mortality rate is estimated at 95 per cent in gorillas and 77 per cent in chimpanzees.